Human Doing

When a valuable resource such as time is limited and non-renewable, it is wise to use it efficiently. But when the consequences are hyperbolized by all-or-nothing thinking, the inefficient use of time is not just unwise; it is strictly unacceptable.

People with OCPD are preoccupied with the efficient use of time because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of time that is spent in any other way.

In attempt to maximize their efficiency, people with OCPD tend to…

(1) cut out unproductive activities (activities that have little to do with providing a sense of safety from their original fear)

  • Being still, waiting, doing nothing
  • Leisure, relaxation
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Etc.

(2) overdo productive activities (activities that have a lot to do with providing a sense of safety from their original fear)

  • Work
  • Performance
  • Success
  • Etc.

(3) rush through required activities

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Getting from point A to point B
  • Etc.

An OCPDer’s preoccupation with the efficient use of time can be so extreme that the success or failure to execute the above time-efficiency maximization model can elicit strong feelings of happiness or guilt.


  • You have a strong ability for time management
  • You are punctual
  • You are skilled at discerning the value of different activities
  • You have a sharp sense for identifying the inefficiencies in work processes and have a natural ability to fix them
  • You are efficient
  • You are very active and driven
  • You are so appreciative when others share their time with you


If the efficient use of time is that important to you, make efficient use of your time on your own. Do not expect others to conform to your pace. Remember that, unless you are in a position of leadership in the workplace, you really do not have any right to control how time is spent by everyone else. If others make it a challenge for you to achieve your maximum time-efficiency, do not get angry with them. Their way of spending time is actually more normal than the way that you spend your time. If the inefficient use of time by others causes you distress, try to calm yourself down by doing something productive at the same time. For example, if your friend’s lateness causes you to wait, read a book while you wait.

Understand that your OCPD friend is the way he or she is because of fear. If your OCPD friend explodes in anger for your inefficient use of time, try to not take it personally. Let your understanding of your friend’s fear give you patience to let him or her vent out his or her frustration. When your OCPD friend feels devastated by his or her inefficient use of time, provide emotional support by showing empathy. Try to help him or her see that the consequences of his or her misuse of time are not as bad as he or she thinks. If your friend attempts to control your use of time, stand your ground and say that you want to spend your time in your way, not because it is better or more efficient, but because you feel more at ease with life (this he or she will not be able to argue against). If your friend has cut out an unproductive activity that means a lot to you (eg. spending time with you or sharing in the household chores), communicate to him or her that you would really appreciate his or her attention in that area. Again, do not try to argue that the activity has to be done – your OCPD friend will probably come up with a well-formed explanation on how illogical it is to do such an inefficient activity. Instead, just humbly say that it means a lot to you and that you would really appreciate it. If your OCPD friend gives in, at first he or she will feel a lot of frustration while participating in this activity that his or her mind has already classified as being inefficient. Encourage your friend every step of the way by continuously showing your appreciation for his or her efforts. This will help your OCPD friend see that such a seemingly irrelevant task does make a difference.

Understand that your preoccupation with the efficient use of time is a cognitive distortion. When you feel distressed from the inefficient use of time, reject that negative feeling. Train yourself to feel at ease in these times. Start now by reserving a part of your day to do something that your mind has classified as being unproductive. I spent my time sitting still in a meditation posture, closing my eyes, keeping quiet, and thinking about nothing. Your mind will tell you, “No, no! This is uncomfortable! Stop doing that this instant!” You will then reply, “Shut up, mind! This is perfectly fine. This is perfectly fine.” As you do this more, your mind will send these messages of discomfort less frequently and less intensely. You are a human being, not a human doing. Train yourself to be happy just as you are, not for what you do. When you spend time with others, try to learn from them and go along with their pace.

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2 thoughts on “Human Doing

  1. Nick says:

    So true. My ex-spouse would say that “housework” is “brainless” and not productive activity like her social skills business. For example, she refused to do laundry even though our housekeeper could not keep up with the housework. As a non-OCPD person, I would help with housework to alleviate the housekeeper’s burden and allow the home to function, but my ex had no problem leaving to others to handle those “brainless” chores because her worktime was more productive. She was adept at going into other people’s homes and showing them their inefficiencies and how they should be raising their children. However, she was lax about applying her child-rearing skills in her own home. Thus, neither my step-children nor my children could count on her as a mother. Indeed, her interaction with her kids resembled more a business discussion than the close interpersonal relationship of a parent and child. No wonder that some of her kids are, unfortunately, on medication, and I wish them well as they grow older. Amazingly, my ex would stay in her office 3-4 hours a night to work and not come out to check on her kids and my kids, which always bothered me until I realized at the end of our marriage that it was her OCPD that caused her to focus more on her work than on our combined family. I also think she suffered from the hyperbolized thinking that OCPDrs have when it comes to writing reports. While I witnessed her inaction when it came to writing simple social notes (she had me write the notes because she never knew what to say), I think she hid from me the fact that she wrote, re-wrote, re-wrote and re-wrote her work reports again and again, thus necessitating extensive hours in her office at night and still being perpetually late in handing in her reports. Maybe a topic for another post?

  2. ` b n g y n says:

    Reblogged this on :: I.DACITY :: and commented:
    To the dot and core, these words so eloquently spell out the borderline obsessive-compulsive need to maximize my time efficiency that manifested in me at the beginning of last year.

    Initially, whenever I kept to my rigorous schedules, there would be an immense sense of self-satisfaction and pride. Then there were the occasions where I performed above my target and in those moments, a rush of Euphoria would shoot through me -a feeling that I would grow addicted to, a craving that grew on an exponential scale.

    To-do lists grew into must-do lists. Must-do lists grew into accurate-by-the-hour plans. These plans then turned into schedules that were recorded down to the nitty gritty details accurate to the quater-hour intervals. What had initially started as a mere homework list now had manifested into something that governed my life down to how many hours of sleep I got. It was my life.

    Socialising and general leisure was out of the question.

    It was no longer a matter of pleasure, it was now expected of myself to be able to not keep up but out-do my past being: a self-distructive and lonely game. The fun was gone and all that remained was a matter of self-pride. Whenever I fell short of my mark, I would ruthless bash myself up inside.

    Idle bus rides were now valuble note-memorising intervals. Friend greetings with friends were now a nuisance. Growing frustration and an underpinning fear of incomputence, I drove myself to start sacraficing sleep and eating became an option. Multitasking became my forte. The ‘annoying but necessary for survival’ tasks such as cooking, showering, eating and clothes changing, were done in a frenzied haste while I focused primarily on spewed out word after word of things I had shoved into my head.

    Although by the end of it, results I produced were the best I had ever had with my average grade being an
    A+, a bitter taste lingered in my mouth. I had burnt out.

    In my hot blind purset for success, I was consumed by the very beast I hunted. Strung along by strings drawn at each of my limbs, I had become a walking a puppet -void of laughs that once defined me: I had lost my own identity.

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